Local residents are not happy when Russian oligarch, Alexander Volkov, buys the historic Westgrave Hall, but are intrigued enough to visit when he throws a party for 1000 guests. While giving a private tour of the library, however, Volkov is shot dead, along with two other men. Knowing that he doesn’t have long before the local police are ousted by the security services, DCI Craig Gillard, is struggling to find evidence to show what actually happened. CCTV shows no one entering or leaving the library, everyone appears to have an alibi and the murder weapon is nowhere in sight. Is this a professional hit or the result of a love triangle? With the security services breathing down his neck, Gillard finds himself involved in his most prolific case to date.
I love a good ‘locked room’ mystery and in The Bodies at Westgrave Hall, Nick Louth has brought this genre bang up to date with a crime that is definitely of its time while still keeping you perplexed as to how the murders could have happened. In recent times, we have seen poisoning cases involving the likes of the Skripals and Alexei Navalny becoming worldwide news so the deaths of Russian oligarchs, albeit by a different method, is very topical. We are left, initially, to wonder whether politics are at play in the deaths or whether it is simply a case of old enemies finally calling time on their differences. I had my theories throughout, but found myself blindsided at the end, angry with myself for disregarding a piece of information that I had originally felt would prove to be important!
The plot is a complex one, showing how difficult it is for the police to mount an operation when there are other agencies involved, in this case the security services. The sheer size of the house also made it difficult for the police, meaning that they had to prioritise evidence, potentially missing clues which may prove to be useful. Although it was complex, I found the plot easy to follow, and felt it definitely had a ‘real time’ feel to it, as we saw the investigation unfold over the Christmas period.
As well as the characters we have got to know in previous books, Nick Louth has created a superb supporting cast in The Bodies at Westgrave Hall, some definitely more likeable than others. My favourite character had to be the man with a name that was so unpronounceable, he was known as Wolf. I once knew someone who learned English from watching episodes of Scooby Doo so I found Wolf’s Only Fools and Horses take on the English language hysterical. “Lovely bubbly!” as Wolf (not Del Boy) would say!
I’ve loved all of the Craig Gillard series, but I think I can safely say that this is one of my favourites to date. An engaging plot, superb characterisation and a mystery that keeps you guessing right until the end… hopefully it won’t be too long before we see what happens next to the Chief Inspector.
With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for my ARC.
Take a look at my reviews for the rest of this series:
The Body in the Marsh
The Body on the Shore
The Body in the Mist
The Body in the Snow
The Body Under the Bridge
The Body on the Island